Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Anarchy of a Story

Every time you begin to take things too seriously, whether they are your own things or the writings of other persons, you begin to bog down in details and stratagems.  

If you remain serious long enough, there is nothing for it except to rip the pages from your notebook, crumple then, and throw them at some receptacle or other.  You are in effect doing this to spare you from the significant problem of boredom, which will arise when you return to this material to deal with it at a later time.

If you are composing on a typewriter, the temptation arises to press the select-all key, then the delete key.  If you are reading the work of someone else,  you find your way back to the point of throwing something.

In either case, when seriousness emerges from the process of explanation rather than the drama of confrontation and conflict, the effect is as though someone has flung the doors open to allow with all the flies and mosquitoes the buzzing and flitting of boredom.  Greater ease in ridding a room of mosquitoes and flies than ridding several serious pages from boredom.

Seriousness leads you to more seriousness, deeper seriousness, Latinate words, formal constructions.  You begin using the word "one" a good deal.  One realizes.  One discovers.  One wonders.  One does, does one?  You also use "one" in the more numerical sense.  "One way of looking at--"  Used in this manner, one leads to the verb is, which makes some sense as a verb in that it signifies a quality of being.  

But the same use is also a gateway to the use of the passive voice or the effect of causing statements to sound more passive than if they'd been shoved on stage with a more aggressive verb.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the verb "to be" or one of its many declensions, is.  I am.  You are.  He, she, or it is.  The present problem for you is the number of articles you are seeing that defend the use of the verb to be and in particular to say of something that it is:  It is raining, for instance, or It is cold.  This problem is compounded by the fact of the material sounding descriptive rather than the essence of the material being triggers within the reader of emotional presence.

At one point in your life, you'd have been content to write the sentence:  Things were not going well for Jake and he often found himself wondering why.  This is by no means a bad sentence nor would you consider it a deal breaker if you were to scan through your own material and find some sentence bearing a close resemblance to this. 

 This is a remarkably serious sentence however, wishing to be even more fraught than it is with existential angst, the very term being yet another hint of the seriousness of your intent. By the simple act of beginning the sentence with the name of the character, you're already ahead of the game.  Jake wondered why things were not going well.

The problem here is that the verb "wondered" is a head verb, not a visceral verb.  Jake spent several moments hefting the tennis ball before throwing against his office wall with much force as he could, watching to see if the ball would bounce all the way back to the opposite wall before making some decision about coming to rest.

True enough, you're using a trope there called the pathetic fallacy, imparting the potential for decision making to a tennis ball.  Your hope is you'd be aware of this in your next revise, then strike the decision part.  Your wish is not to impress with your ability to anthropomorphize or even impress the reader with your ability to describe, rather to get the reader inside the story and, in this case, the force, determination, and anger inherent in the hurling of the tennis ball against the wall.

You've reached the point now of allowing yourself to write such sentences, hopeful of catching them early on in the revision states and thus making your composing you aware of the need to nudge your serious you into writing something with more of an edge to it rather than something with an insistent sound of logic to it.

Agein the need to explain and define.  Nothing wrong with logic, if it wears the proper wardrobe.  Twisted logic, for instance, sends a coded message to the reader that this character is drawing conclusions that may present unintended responses.  You seem to want piles of logic in order to argue the reader into awareness of a braid of feelings and responses when, if you would back off to allow action and attitude to prevail, the reader would sense on the level of understanding you'd prefer over the condition of the reader saying in effect, "Okay.  I get it, already.  I do.  I get it."

What then, after the seriousness has been caught, trying to squat in the unoccupied paragraphs?  Mischief.  Chemistry. The urges and complaints shoving one another to get out.  The anarchy of a story too filled with energy to stay on its own tracks.

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